Yahoo Pipes can also be used with other services, like PostRank, for example. PostRank, originally called AideRSS, is a service that rates the posts on any blog by popularity using comments, links, bookmarks, tweets, and other measurements to give each post a rank from 1 – 10. Luckily for us, PostRank conveniently stores the rank right in the RSS feed allowing us to access it from Yahoo Pipes. In our last Yahoo Pipes demo, I showed you how to Modify RSS Feeds to work better for your purposes. I recommend watching the 2 minute demo about modifying RSS feeds if you haven’t already, since we will use those concepts again in this pipe.
You can watch the embedded video above, but I recommend downloading the higher resolution Quicktime file (25 MB) or clicking the full screen toggle icon in the player to watch. The quality will be much better than the flash version embedded above.
PostRank. Using the 2 feeds that we’ve been using for most of these demos, ReadWriteWeb and GigaOM, we analyze each of them using PostRank, filter by the best posts, and copy the RSS feed for the output.
Fetch Feed. Fetches the elements from 2 PostRank feeds for ReadWriteWeb and GigaOM from the previous step.
Sort Module. Sort by PostRank in descending order to keep the posts with the highest rank at the top.
Loop module with String Builder Module. Loops through each element in the feed and builds a string with item.postrank:postrank: item.title. This string is assigned back into item.title.
Pipe Output. The final module in every Yahoo Pipe.
While many people use Yahoo Pipes to filter RSS feeds, Pipes can also be used to modify RSS feeds to work better for your purposes. In this example, we will add the author name to the beginning of the title to make it easier to see the author without opening the item in your rss reader. I recommend watching the Introduction to Yahoo Pipes: 2 minute Yahoo Pipes Video Demo if you haven’t already, since we’re going use the basic pipe developed in that demo using fetch feed and sort modules, but without the filter module.
You can watch the embedded video above, but I recommend downloading the higher resolution Quicktime file (19 MB) or clicking the full screen toggle icon in the player to watch. The quality will be much better than the flash version embedded above.
I’ve decided to resurrect the Portland Data Plumbing Group to give us a time and place to talk about RSS feed hacking, Yahoo Pipes, Dapper, and other related technologies.
We’ll be having these meetings on the 2nd Tuesday of every month at 6pm (location TBD). The first meeting will be on:
Tuesday, January 13th
6:00pm – 7:30pm
Please RSVP on Upcoming if you plan to attend.
The agenda for the first meeting:
Round table discussion: each person gets 3-5 min to talk about the coolest thing they’ve done to manipulate an RSS feed.
Talk about ideas for future agendas.
If you want to be notified of future meetings, you should subscribe to the Portland Data Plumbing Google Group. A huge thanks to Justin for starting this group and for encouraging me to schedule a new meeting!
This video shows how to get input from a list of items in a CSV file, and it introduces the loop module. A CSV file is a great choice when you want to fetch a bunch of feeds and change them frequently without having to update your pipe. If you haven’t already watched the 2 Minute Yahoo Pipes Introductory Demo, I strongly suggest that you watch it. This demo builds on the basic structure developed in the introductory demo. The CSV file I’m using also contains the same feeds from ReadWriteWeb and GigaOM that we used in the original demo plus a few others.
The debugger serves a couple of functions in Yahoo Pipes. The first one is pretty obvious – debugging. It allows you to see exactly what is happening in each component of your Yahoo Pipe to help with the debugging process when something isn’t working quite right.
The debugger also serves a less obvious purpose. You can use it to learn more about the elements of the rss feeds that you are using as input. For most blogs, the rss feeds are fairly standard, but other services store all kinds of useful information in their rss feeds in addition to standard elements like link, title, and date. The debugger can help you find this additional information in the feed.
This video shows how to request a user input and use the keyword from the user as the filter in a Yahoo Pipe. If you haven’t already watched the 2 Minute Yahoo Pipes Introductory Demo, I strongly suggest that you watch it. The user input demo starts with the simple pipe created in the introductory demo and changes the filters from keywords hardcoded in the introductory pipe to the keyword from the user input.
Podcast Feed and iTunes
I also wanted to let people know that I’ve put together a dedicated feed for the Yahoo Pipes Video Podcast Series, and they are also available on iTunes as a subscription to make it easier for people to get the videos.
User Input: 2 Minute Yahoo Pipes Video Demo
You can watch the embedded video above, but I recommend downloading the higher resolution Quicktime file (22 MB) to watch. The quality will be much better than the flash version above.
Fetch Feed Module. Contains 2 feeds: ReadWriteWeb and GigaOM.
Text Input Module. Leave Name and Position as the defaults. Prompt: “enter a keyword” or other instructions for the user. Default and Debug: “apple” in this example. You can generally use the same term for default and debug, but make sure that you use a word commonly found in your feeds that will generate enough volume for testing and will generate default results for your users to view.
Filter Module. Filter by the keyword entered in the user input module by connecting the text input to the filter module as seen in the demo.
Sort Module. Sort by date in descending order to make sure things are sorted in a logical manner.
Pipe Output. The final module in every Yahoo Pipe.
Many large companies can afford to spring for expensive software packages that monitor what people are saying about your company, industry, and competition online; however, for those of us looking for an inexpensive solution, Yahoo Pipes can be an important tool.
After I published the 2 minute Yahoo Pipes demo on Monday, I realized that I have done many posts about Yahoo Pipes without ever writing about why people should care about the technology and how it can used. I decided it was time to devote a post to explaining how people can use Yahoo Pipes and get actual business benefits.
Using Yahoo Pipes can help you understand what people are saying about you, your industry, your competitors and more through smart filtering of blogs, news sources, Twitter, and other online sites. Your customers are talking about you and your competitors are revealing information that you want to know online. Can you find it quickly and efficiently now?
A few business benefits from using Yahoo Pipes:
Become more responsive to your customers by knowing when and where people are talking about your company and products on blogs and Twitter. Find and respond more quickly and efficiently.
Use what people are saying about your company and your products to improve your products / services, marketing messages, web content, documentation and other communications.
Get insight into your competitors.
Keep up with important information about your industry by focusing on keyword filtering to find the most relevant content for your situation.
Monitoring dashboards will help you disseminate the information from Yahoo Pipes throughout the rest of your organization.
While I think that monitoring is always important, I usually emphasize it when I am working on blogging strategies with clients. Knowing what people say about your organization, your industry, and your competition is an important element of a blogging strategy. All of the information found via Yahoo Pipes for the purposes above can then be used to generate ideas for blog posts or other communications.
What business benefits do you get from Yahoo Pipes?
If you have been wanting to create Yahoo Pipes, but weren’t quite sure where to start when faced with the blank page on a new Yahoo Pipe, I created a very simple demo to get you started. This Yahoo Pipes demo will help you get started with Yahoo Pipes and show you what you need to know to create a basic Pipe. We use filtering for this example, since Yahoo Pipes is great at taking feeds and filtering to display only the posts that match (or exclude) certain keywords. The demo covers taking multiple feeds as inputs, filtering on keywords, sorting, and using the debugger to analyze the elements of your source feeds and your output. After watching this demo, you should be able to create a basic Yahoo Pipe and use it to filter to include or exclude items that match certain keywords.
Yahoo Pipes Training
I also wanted to take this opportunity to announce that I will begin conducting Yahoo Pipes training for organizations. These 2 hour classes will cover the basics of building Yahoo Pipes and provide some custom content if needed to help meet the specific needs of your organization.
A 2 Minute Yahoo Pipes Demo
You can watch the embedded video above, but I recommend downloading the higher resolution Quicktime file (20 MB) to watch. The quality will be much better than the flash version above.
Most of us have various feeds that we use to track where people are mentioning our company, products, industry or other areas of interest. It occurred to me that it might be a good idea to track articles hitting Techmeme that have a certain keyword in the title or description of the post. Eureka! The Techmeme Keyword Alert pipe is born.
As most of you know, we launched Shizzow last week, and we began using the Shizzow Twitter account with it. I’ve been doing most (but not all) of the tweeting from the Shizzow account, and I wanted to share some best practices for using a corporate Twitter account effectively without being spammy.
This post assumes that you are already familiar with Twitter and are using it for a personal account, but if you are new to Twitter, you’ll want to start by reading Tara Hunt’s Tweeting for Companies 101.
I am also assuming that you have already read my post about Social Media and Social Networking Best Practices for Business. If not, you might want to start there. It has quite a few tips for how to interact with social media sites and online communities that apply to using Twitter, but are not covered explicitly or in any detail in this post.
Know what people are saying about you. After you create your Twitter account and have the name reserved, but before you start using it, set up some tracking tools. You will want to know when people are replying and what people are saying about you on Twitter. Yesterday, I released a Twitter Sniffer for Brands pipe that will help you keep track of the conversations about you on Twitter. I’ve found that the Twitter Search (was Summize) actually misses some Tweets that will be caught by this pipe. This is a copy of the pipe that I am using to keep track of the conversations about Shizzow. I monitor the RSS feeds most of the day when I have time, but no less than 2-3 times per day. For extra credit, you should also be monitoring what people say about you on other blogs (Google Blog Search with RSS feeds or alerts might help).
Respond frequently and sincerely. Knowing what people say is only helpful if you actually use the information and respond to people. You will want to keep the responses public by using @replies wherever possible instead of DMs unless you are exchanging non-public info. Going back to my Best Practices post, you also need to be sincere and remember that it is not all about you when you respond to people. Be honest about what isn’t working well and how you plan to improve your products or services. Help people find information when you see them struggling or asking questions on Twitter. Respond to the tough, critical questions in addition to the easy ones.
Follow back. You will want to follow people back when they follow you on Twitter. It will help you listen and respond while allowing people to send you direct messages. See the ‘don’t proactively follow people’ section below for some cautions about following people.
Have a personality. Companies are made up of people, and you’ll want to show some personality in your tweets. Nobody wants to listen to a corporate drone or regurgitated marketing messages. Personalize the information and act like a real person in your responses.
Variety is Important. Include a wide variety of information in your Twitter stream without focusing too heavily on any one element. I try to shoot for a mix of informational posts (new features, blog posts), links to other people’s blog posts or retweets, @replies to questions, alerts about any issues or downtime for maintenance, meetups, and fun posts.
Things to Avoid
Don’t be a link spam account. This one is a little controversial, and some people will disagree with me here; however, I don’t think that you should use your Twitter account just to post links to blog posts. If people want your blog posts, they can get them via RSS. It is OK to link to informational blog posts, but I always put some text around it so that people can decide whether or not to click through. You should also be linking to posts from other blogs that are relevant to your company or industry as a whole. These should be a fairly small portion of your overall Twitter posts (see the variety is important section above).
Don’t go overboard. You should be providing information and replying to people, but you shouldn’t go overboard. I would say that posting no more than 5-10 times a day on average is a pretty good goal. Some days will have more and others less depending on the situation; however, if you post too much, you’ll start to lose followers who can’t keep up with the volume.
Don’t be too self-promotional. You should use your Twitter account to promote your activities; however, it should be a part of what you do. If every post talks about how awesome your company is, people will lose interest fairly quickly.
Don’t proactively follow people. People will find your Twitter account when you @reply them, and you can use your website / blog to promote it. You don’t want to start by following a few hundred (or thousand) people who don’t care about you or your product. It seems creepy to be followed by a random brand that you aren’t already following, and it just makes you look spammy. See the follow back section above for how to do this right.
Companies and Communities is focused on helping your company get real business value out of participating in online communities and social media. This book contains practical advice and suggestions for how companies can engage with online communities and social media sites.
The opinions expressed in this blog are mine alone and do not reflect those of my employer.